There has been a tremendous increase in the use of smartphones among college students and alongside the benefits there is growing concern over problematic/addictive smartphone use (PSU). Among the most robust predictors of behavioral and substance use disorders are a subset of adverse childhood experiences conceptualized as household dysfunction (HHD). Despite the high prevalence of HHD and risk of PSU among college students, research investigating the link between HHD and PSU among college populations is sparse, especially in the United States.
Students (N = 351) from a diverse, southern California university responded to an online survey. Regression models assessed the association between HHD (e.g., parent alcohol and drug use, mental health, incarceration, suicide, intimate partner violence, separation/divorce, and homelessness; categorized into 0, 1-3, and 4 or more) and PSU using Smartphone Addiction Scale short version (SAS-SV) scale, adjusted for covariates.
Over 50% of students reported at least one type of household dysfunction and about 25% were at high risk for PSU. Compared to students who report no household stressors, students with 1-3 had twice the odds (AOR: 2.11, 95% CI: 1.13-3.83) and students with 4 or more had four times the odds (AOR: 4.01, 95% CI: 2.35-6.82) of PSU, after adjusting for covariates. There were no sex differences in this association.
Findings suggest that household dysfunction can increase the likelihood of developing behavioral disorders such as PSU. Implications for prevention efforts are discussed.